Elina Melgin (Managing Director, ProCom - Finnish Association of Communication Professionals)

18.12.2011 - Interview conducted by the ICD News Team

Q1: What does cultural diplomacy mean to you, and what is the role of art in cultural diplomacy?

A1: This is a very broad question. Cultural diplomacy is a very vague term and we all have different perceptions of what it means, so I cannot answer your question briefly. Books have been written on the subject with different points of view. It is interesting and complex.

 Q2: Turning to the role of art in cultural diplomacy, do you think that some types of art are better suited as instruments of cultural diplomacy than others?

A2: I think it depends on which period we are looking at. In my presentation I tried to show that fine arts, craftsmanship and later design have been important in the early period of cultural diplomacy in Finland. But if you look at the same issue today, the role of fine arts and design are less important. Today, Hip Hop can serve as much better tool for certain nations. I think it is related to time and to changes in society.

Q3: Do you think that Finland is a forerunner in cultural diplomacy? Is there anything that other countries can learn from Finland?

A3: There is always room for improvement, but what we can be proud of is that we have been able to focus on creating new art forms, first with fine arts and music and then design and also architecture, which is very important. So we have invested in certain areas. We have not spread everywhere, when were not a rich country. You need to focus, you need to have a strategy, and that is missing in so many countries today. But we are not yet an example. In the future I would like us to invest more in strategic thinking, so we do not waste the opportunities we have ahead. 

Q4: “Sauna diplomacy” is said to be a special feature of Finnish politics. Can you elaborate a bit on that?

A4: The Sauna has been very important in Finland. People have been born in saunas. But also within politics and diplomacy we used to say that all the big decisions are made in saunas. And this sauna culture still exists. It is easy to talk in a sauna. You are very close to people, and there are no protocols, you cannot follow protocols when you are in a sauna.